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Early Stage Breast Cancer Is Not An 'Emergency,' Researchers Say

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THURSDAY, Aug. 20, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Only 3 percent of women diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer will die of their disease within 20 years, and more aggressive treatment does not improve that high survival rate, a new study suggests.

“The good news is that death is pretty rare,” said study first author Steven Narod, director of the Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit at Women’s College Research Institute, in Toronto. “Clinically, the fact is that 3 percent in the big picture should be reassuring.”

The researchers did find that the death rates for both younger women and black patients diagnosed with this early stage cancer were higher.

The early stage breast cancer that they studied is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a small, localized cluster of cancer cells. About 20 to 25 percent of breast cancers that mammogram screening detects are DCIS. It is considered a stage 0 cancer that does not escape its location in the breast, the researchers said. Cancer that spreads into the rest of the breast or beyond is considered invasive.

“One clinical implication is to reiterate that DCIS is not an ’emergency,’ ” said Sarah Hawley, a cancer research specialist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “The study supports that the risk of dying is extremely low for these patients.”

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